The NFL Draft is personally one of my favorite events to bet on in the entire sports year. By late April, there are tons of betting opportunities with markets ranging from who will be the first overall pick, how many cornerbacks will be selected in round one, to what position will the Carolina Panthers select with their first pick? Only a few of these markets have opened up so far, but I’ve got two bets I like this week.
Under 1.5 safeties selected in Round One (+120)
This year’s safety class boasts arguably the best player in the entire draft, Kyle Hamilton. The Notre Dame prospect is a rare combination of size and athleticism, which will get Hamilton drafted within the top 10 picks. However, after Hamilton, there is a large drop-off in talent at the safety position. According to Grinding The Mocks, the next tier of safeties consists of Michigan’s Daxton Hill (who is listed as a cornerback in some places), Georgia’s Lewis Cine, and Penn State’s Jaquan Brisker. All the players have expected draft positions outside of the first round. Hill is the highest among the three and ranks 19th on Daniel Jeremiah’s latest big board. ESPN has Hill at 27th in their rankings, Tankathon ranks him 32nd, and Pro Football Focus has him at 36th.
Since Hill is a fringe first-round prospect, he’s going to need a team at the back end of those top 32 picks to have a need at safety. Among teams in the bottom quarter of the first round, none have a major need at the position. Only one, Kansas City, has safety as a secondary need, and the Chiefs already signed Justin Reid in free agency. Safety has also become a devalued position in the NFL Draft. Not a single safety has been selected in the first round over the past two seasons. While Hamilton is a lock, I think the trend continues, and we see the position slip down the draft board this April.
Under 0.5 running backs selected in Round One (-175)
It’s always tough to justify selecting a running back in the first round, and this year that is especially true. Unlike previous classes that featured elite prospects such as Saquon Barkley or Leonard Fournette, the 2022 running back class lacks a high-end talent. Iowa State’s Breece Hall is the betting favorite to be the first running back selected and is followed by Michigan State’s Kenneth Walker in the top tier of the class. Hall’s expected draft position is currently 54, with Walker not far behind at 55.7. Running back is one of the most devalued positions in football, and more teams and analysts are catching on to that. Neither prospect is ranked within the top 40 on any big board I referenced. I would say this is a slam dunk bet, but there is one team that gives me hesitation.
Again, if one of these players were to sneak into the back of the first round, it’d take a team with a major need at running back. The Miami Dolphins were one of those teams, but they recently signed two running backs in free agency and have many more holes to fill across the roster. The Dolphins free agency moves have left the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the only team that has a chance of taking a running back in the first round.
Ke’Shawn Vaughn and Kenjon Barner are the only backs they have under contract right now, so the Buccaneers will be looking to add somebody. This should be a pretty easy thing to do as there will be plenty of good backs available later in the draft, as well as a few options that they could pursue in free agency, such as Leonard Fournette, Melvin Gordon, or Sony Michel. While Tampa’s desperation for a running back scares me, running back remains a devalued position in today’s NFL, and there is no elite prospect in this year’s class.
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